Whether you’re a devoted diner or a theater enthusiast, it’s not far-fetched to consider planning an entire trip just for a standout meal or an award-winning performance. And now, there’s a chance to enjoy both at once. Call it dramatic dining or cinematic cuisine, the latest restaurant trend is telling a tale with food.
Who needs a dinner and a show when you can have it all in one elaborate, multi-coursed sitting? These are some of our favorite theatrical experiences worth traveling for.
Entering this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star San Diego venue is like stepping onto an elaborate set. Inspired by the work of renowned architect Addison Mizner, the European-style eatery within Five-Star Fairmont Grand Del Mar sets the scene for an elegant night out.
Helmed by chef William Bradley, Addison offers a 10-course tasting menu that puts Southern California’s seasonal bounty center stage — a recent winter menu featured comforts like coddled farm egg with Parmesan fondue, caramelized sablefish with toasted kale and tarte au chocolate with goat’s milk ice cream.
The showmanship extends to the service and presentation of each course, proffered with personalization that further accentuates your culinary journey.
The Silver Bough
Opened in early 2019 within Montecito Inn in Montecito, California (a celebrity-loved enclave just outside Santa Barbara), this unique eatery is the brainchild of up-and-coming husband-and-wife chef duo Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee, owners of multiple concept restaurants in Los Angeles.
The night begins in a red-velvet-curtained room as the Celtic folklore of The Silver Bough is told, and delicate canapes are served by the maître d’. As the veil is pulled back, you are invited to the eight-seat bar, where a team of chefs presents an elaborate 18-course feast.
No extravagance is spared here, from the olive-finished wagyu beef to the black truffle and 24-karat gold ice cream prepared using both painstakingly traditional cooking methods (including the 19th-century duck press) and modern-day molecular techniques.
The experience is a regal one, almost like hiring some of L.A.’s best chefs to lay out a royal feast for you and seven friends. Plus, after your meal, you get to hang out with Lee and share a cognac or two.
Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet
More art installation than restaurant, this avant-garde space is still as progressive as the day it opened in 2012.
Designed and helmed by French chef Paul Pairet, the Shanghai address consists of only one table that seats 10 diners and uses light, scent, temperature, sound and scenery to communicate a playful story over a 20-course production.
Pairet aims to deliver a multi-sensory experience he calls “psycho taste,” so expect dishes that have a sense of humor — think oysters served with pop rocks and cucumber lollipops.
The Table at La Joya
This history lesson is anything but dull. Over the course of eight plates at Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun’s fine-dining restaurant, you’ll discover Mexico’s rich culture with your taste buds.
Created by executive chef Sergio Zarate, this multi-course dinner is served on a custom-built communal table where an animated video map takes you on a multi-sensory journey through the Yucatan Peninsula’s colorful history, from the height of Mayan civilization to Mexican independence.
Throughout the visual experience, savor dishes highlighting the country’s diverse culinary melting pot, including blue crab chilpachole (seafood stew), venison tzi’ik (a venison salad with regional citrus) and five-spice churros.
To enjoy a bit of theater with your Mexican cuisine, opt for a locally inspired five-course tasting menu during which you’ll learn about Baja California’s indigenous people and their epic pilgrimage to the peninsula.
Using traditional cooking techniques and ingredients, the dinner features rustic fare like flame-roasted fish and a local aphrodisiac, the Damiana flower.
El Celler de Can Roca
If you’re still mourning the 2011 loss of chef Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli, this Catalonian dining room run by the three Roca brothers (you might recognize youngest sibling Jordi Roca from the pastry-focused season of Netflix’s Chef’s Table) just might fill the void.
Three decades of brotherly love (and no shortage of talent) have earned this avant-garde eatery plenty of critical acclaim and for good reason — the experience is a beautiful masterpiece that combines theater, art and culinary prowess in one.
Reservations become available at midnight of the first day of every month, but you’ll want to book a year out if you want a seat at this immensely popular spot.
Chef Mossimo Bottura’s intimate Modena, Italy, restaurant is like going to the opera, culinary style: it’s all heart and passion on the plate.
There are two tasting menus: modern and traditional. We recommend the more classic 10-course festina lente (“make haste slowly”) option that offers an homage to the sights and flavors of the toque’s northern Italian hometown in dishes like “The crunchy part of the lasagna” or “Caesar salad in bloom.”
Also featured on Chef’s Table, Osteria Francescana only has 12 tables, so it’s no wonder it takes about five months to nab a reservation.